Changing Planet

Expert Voices: Laura Spanjian, Sustainability Director, City of Houston

“Houston is on a Green Roll” 

Houston is one of the few U.S. cities recently selected to benefit from the highly competitive U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2012 TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program, receiving a $15 million grant for the City’s Regional Multimodal Connections project.

This local project will help to eliminate gaps in Houston’s existing bike grid by creating bikeways to connect major employment centers as well as the City’s historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. In addition to creating jobs, it will also aid in making Houston a more accessible and sustainable place to live. The project includes building 7.5 miles of off-street shared-use paths, 2.8 miles of sidewalks, and 7.9 miles of on-street bikeways.

The City of Houston’s current bike grid offers over 300 miles of interconnected bikeway network.  The network includes bike lanes, bike routes, signed-shared lanes and shared-use paths, commonly referred to as ‘hike and bike’ trails, which includes rails to trails, and other urban multi-use paths.  In addition to these transportation facilities, there are over 80 miles of hike and bike and nature trails found in City of Houston parks. In addition, Harris County and many municipal utility districts have constructed over 160 miles of bikeways within the City limits.

Thanks to leadership from Mayor Annise Parker, the Houston Parks Board and Parks and Recreation Department and support from the business community and numerous organizations, including C40 in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, this federal grant will allow Houston to continue to provide real alternative transportation options for commuting and recreation.  Combined with three new rail lines being built and the City’s recently launched Houston Bike Share program, residents increasingly can rely on more than just their passenger vehicle for transportation.

This grant couldn’t have come at a better time for Houston.  For the first time in thirty years, the 2012 Kinder Houston Area Study revealed a significant increase in the number of residents who support mass transit and prefer a less automobile-dependent, more urbanized lifestyle.

Houston is on a green roll.

To read the full press release on this announcement, click here.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally. Recognizing that cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions, our organization’s global field staff works with city governments, supported by our technical experts across a range of program areas to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in large cities across the world. The current chair of the C40 is Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, and 108th Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg is President of the Board. The Steering Committee includes: Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Houston, Jakarta, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul and Tokyo.
  • Rex KNepp

    While I applaud Ms Spanjian’s enthusiasm, the TIGER grant and local funding amount to nearly $30 million. All of that goes to a lousy 18 miles of bicycle travel improvement? Houston’s alleged 300 miles of bikeways are far from interconnected. Because of Texas’ peculiar freeway paradigm and traffic pattern design, i t’s virtually impossible to get across the city’s arterials and freeways on a bicycle and feel safe in the process. Except for a few favored near-downtown neighborhoods, Houston is a vast wasteland to cyclists who want something more useful than a six-mile-long out-and-back path along Buffalo Bayou, a path that connects to nothing at either end.

    The city resolutely ignores all neighborhoods except Montrose and the Heights in all its projects; this “bright spot on the bicycling map” is only one more example of their tunnel vision.

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